PHOENIX — Freshman state representative Raquel Teran spent five days last week in El Salvador. She was part of group of lawmakers from around the country studying what happens when a country outlaws abortion.
Teran visited hospitals and jails and met with pregnant girls, some as young as 10 years old. She visited with women in jail, including one woman who is sentenced to a 30-year prison term after being convicted of having an abortion.
She claims she had an obstetric emergency. "If Roe v. Wade is gone, Arizona in a blink of an eye could be El Salvador," Teran says.
Arizona's law bans abortion, except when the life of the mother is at risk. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. The law also places restrictions on birth control.
Because of Roe v. Wade, Arizona's law is not being enforced. But Teran sees a day when that is possible if nothing is done to change it, "When we see these abortion restrictions come to our state legislatures we talk about the unintended consequences."
She points to a combination of events which will occur over the coming weeks and months when a federal appeals court rules on the constitutionality of the affordable health care program, a Trump constructed conservative Supreme Court reviews a Louisiana abortion law, and in Arizona a potential legislative fight over how to teach sex education.
"The lack of coverage for sex-ed, the lack of access to health care, the lack of access to birth control. Basic rights lead to the criminalization of women."
"El Salvador is not America, El Salvador is not Arizona." Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod says Representative Teran is wrong to say women could go to jail for abortion.
"None of the pro-life laws, no pro-life advocate I am aware of is advocating punishing women having an abortion," Herrod says.
According to the Guttmacher Institute the number of abortions in Arizona have declined by 8% between 2014-2017. Pro-life inspired laws and a decrease in access to abortion procedures are playing a role in the decline.
"Abortion is not healthcare," Herrod says. She says the El Salvador trip was designed to scare Americans.
Representative Teran was one of five state lawmakers who went to El Salvador. The trip was arranged by The State Innovation Exchange - an organization which promotes reproductive healthcare rights, sex education, and maternal health.
Teran says she is now working with stakeholders to introduce legislation she believes will help protect women and reproductive healthcare..